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[ what is a 'disciple'? ]

photo of people climbing a hill In the gospels, we have a record of Jesus “calling” a number of people, often with the phrase “follow me”.  Those who responded became his disciples.  

Jesus took discipleship a stage further than the already established idea of a pupil - teacher relationship.  Ultimately mere pupils can accept or reject what their teacher has to say, or move on to sit at the feet of someone else (Paul the Jew, for example, sat at the feet of the rabbi Gamaliel - Acts 22:3).

But Jesus wanted more than this.  His disciples were to be committed to him - “Follow me” not “Follow my teaching.”  They did not so much choose him as their teacher, he chose them (John 15:16), though of course each person's response was up to them.  Discipleship is not forced.

His last recorded words in Matthew's gospel are:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mt 28:19-20).

The call to discipleship is to all of us, and it's to a lifetime of learning through the Holy Spirit (“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” - Jn 14:26).

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As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother ... And he said to them, “Follow me.”  (Mt 4:18)

Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Mt 8:21-22)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. (Mt 9:9) 

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37)

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  (Mk 8:34)

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”  (Jn 12:26)

In summary?  To be a disciple of Jesus is to embark on a life-long learning process, pledging unswerving loyalty to him as well as his teaching.  To be obedient, no matter what the cost in personal loss or suffering, to the one whose nature is pure love.  And to know that this is open to anyone: the bond between his followers is not race, gender, class or intelligence, but belief in and commitment to the leader.  Follow this link to find out how eLearning can help.